Imagine you just moved to Los Angeles with your boyfriend after losing your full-time job. You just lost your home that you shared with your lifelong best friend in San Diego during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well. You are scared. You have no money. Your dream job is out of reach because someone had just broken into your car and stolen your makeup brushes, curling wand, flat iron, and hair drier; the tools needed to pursue the job you went to school for. You have lost all hope for this job, and believe it is a sign from God that you are not meant to do what you love. In order to support yourself, you take any job you can find, even if it does not pay that much and it means bussing tables to make ends meet. This is not the best place for you mentally, and you start drowning yourself in food and alcohol to cope with the pain. This is the reality of the pandemic for many, including Lizette Louise, a hair stylist and makeup artist in Uptown Whittier.
Louise felt like she was “full of shit” while talking to me about her life and journey to becoming the version of who she is today. Ever since she was a teenager, Louise loved to help people “achieve their version of their self-image” and has always been a “transformation artist”— a description which is demonstrated by her various looks. One day Louise has long vibrant black ringlets of hair with a full face of glam, and the next day she is rocking her natural kinky texture that is dyed purple, with a natural face of makeup. Louise feels that each look depends on how she is feeling that day. Sometimes she wants to look “punk rock,” and other days she wants to embrace her natural beauty; each one is “beautiful in a different way” to her.
I first met Louise back in 2021 for my Tia’s wedding because she was doing all the bridesmaids’ makeup. Louise was dressed in all black, as every makeup artist does. Her hair was blonde and pulled back into a low bun. As soon as I met her, we clicked instantly because “we saw each other.” I have always had a love for makeup, but never really knew how to put it on correctly. Even though we were in a time crunch for getting ready for the wedding, Louise took the time to show me how to properly apply everything to my face. From gently brushing the apples of my cheeks with rose-colored blush to blending cafe brown eyeshadow into the crease of my eyelid, Louise guided me. She was there to teach me without any frustration. While doing my makeup we bonded over beauty products, spin classes, and the fact that we both have absent addict fathers; basically we both joked about having “daddy issues.” It felt like a conversation one would have with an older sister. And, come to think of it, that is how Louise sees all of her clients: her “babies” because most of them are as young as I am.
While sitting in her salon chair late Monday night, Louise painted my hair with toner as she chatted about which breweries and bars are good in Uptown Whittier. I had recently turned twenty-one and she smiled as she mentioned the Whittier Brewing Company: Whittier’s first brewery and tap room. Louise had her first job there when she moved to Whittier back in 2020. She used to spend her nights and weekends picking up plates of half-eaten pizza and pints of beer from the black metal tables that occupy the Poet Gardens’ Dining Hall. Eating the various pizzas and throwing down a beer or three was something Louise did daily while working at the brewery. It became an “unhealthy routine” she used in order to avoid the pain she was feeling from having her dream ripped out from under her.
All of her hairstyling and makeup tools were stolen the first week living in Whittier. She had been laid off from all of her jobs, so there was no money to pay for new tools because rent was due. So, bussing tables, and cleaning up after those who came to the brewery was Louise’s job until her dream came true. Since Louise prefers donning a bold look the majority of the time, she becomes a messiah for those who want to change their appearance. With Louise being a certified cosmetologist, those around her, especially at her work, would always ask for help when dying or cutting their hair. What initially seemed like a filler job became a godsend for Louise. Her coworkers became her first clients in the Whittier area and helped her land a job at Luna Beauty Parlor.
Down the street from the brewery is Luna Beauty Parlor, a Latina-owned salon on Greenleaf. The owner, a family friend of mine named Griselda Garcia, spends a majority of her time in Uptown, whether it is getting a cafe de olla at La Monarca during the day, or drinking at the brewery at night, she is there partying it up. With Garcia always being around, it means she knows a lot of people within the Uptown area, especially those who work there. So it was not hard for Garcia to hear about the woman at the brewery who was doing their co-worker’s hair for extra pocket money, a.k.a Louise.
This dark path Louise felt like she was going through was fading away as soon as she met Garcia. Luna Beauty Parlor brought Louise’s dream back to life — the opportunity to do the job of her dreams, hair and makeup. In 2021, things were starting to look up for Louise. She had enough money to pay for all the tools that were stolen from her, and she was finally able to do what she longed for since she was a teenager. Now, she is working at Luna Beauty Parlor in Uptown and no longer has to bus tables.
The Uptown community had lifted Louise’s spirits and given her a second chance by being “friendly, accepting”, and believing in her even when they “didn’t know” her well; which caused her to make some of the “best friendships” of her life. This has been the “best environment” she’s been in as a stylist because of how encouraging the people of Uptown are. They believed in her when she was at her lowest and helped her achieve the job she lost.
As I was sitting under the hair dryer in the salon I could hear Louise and Garcia shouting at one another. They were not mad at each other, but that is how they speak to one another. Both were laughing at some joke I couldn’t hear while my hair was soaking in the deep conditioner. When my hair was done drying, Louise brought me back to her station to wash out the conditioner. Garcia then came over to complain about how Louise was my new hair stylist now, since, she had pretty much changed everything about my hair. Before I could answer, Louise exclaimed, “[b]because she doesn’t want pornstar hair, girl!” I wanted to pee my pants from laughter! I heard the joke while Louise was doing my makeup last year for my aunt’s wedding.
While Louise was painting my face, Josh Garcia, Garcia’s son who also works at Luna, joked about how Luna Beauty Parlor is for all people because they have “one person who does porno hair, prom hair, and punk hair.” Griselda doing porno hair, Josh doing prom hair, and Louise doing punk hair. I specifically went to Louise that Monday night because I wanted a different look than the one I have had for the past twenty-one years. I did not think I would achieve that with Griselda Garcia, and the way she had been doing my hair since I was five years old. Also, I knew she would convince me not to do a balayage since she is like a tia to me (my mom and her have been friends for many years). Even though I had known Louise for five seconds, she was always dying her hair crazy colors. So, I knew she was the one to go to and would dig the change.
After Louise blew out and flat ironed my hair, it was time to see my new look. When she turned the chair around, I looked different in a good way. My long, dark brown, and curly hair was now light brown, short and straight. I loved it! Louise had done exactly what she said she loved to do, which was to “transform” her clients into their “ideal physical image.”
Louise was grinning along with me as she saw the look of excitement on my face when I saw how much my hair changed. You could really tell that she was proud of all the work she had done on my hair. This is Lizette Louise’s favorite part about being a hairstylist. Being able to “be a part of people’s growth, and positive changes” and affect people “positively, instead of being a part of their downfalls.”
Featured image via Luna Beauty Parlor Instagram